Picture this scenario.
You are 4 years old and day after day and night after night, you listen to stories of the bounties of Jannah. You yearn for Jannah and learn of all that could take you there. You learn that prayer is on top of the list and make sure to watch people in prayer at every possible opportunity. You practise praying in your very own prayer mat. You can’t even reach the handle of the door but you squeal in delight at the thought of praying in the Masjid only to be told the beautiful Masjid does not want you there. You pray outside by your mother on a worn and dusty carpet, and wonder if you had been “naughty” and that’s why they didn’t let you in.
Or picture this.
You are 5 years old. It’s Eid! You wake up at the crack of dawn and rub your sleepy eyes with your tiny hands. Bathed and dressed in matching Abayas, you go to the Masjid as a family for prayers. But alas, you can’t enter the prayer room at all. So you sit on a straw mat outside the carpeted prayer hall, squashed by similar peers and wonder why they wouldn’t just let you pray inside.
Now picture this.
So now you are 10 and suddenly you are not shooed away like scum. You reluctantly wrap your shawl on and apprehensively enter the prayer room. It’s the soft carpet you always wanted to touch and feel. You are now bathed in the glow of the twinkling lights you once sneaked a peek at before being told to move away. You pray dutifully but your heart is heavy. Your mind is filled with the rejection of the yesteryears and you feel watched. Your heart throbs in fear and shame at the thought being told to leave again. Finish your prayer and return home and slowly start giving excuses to not go there again. You worry about your prayer there because you just could not focus with all your thoughts. You stop going to the Masjid altogether because you are tired of feeling like you did something wrong.
At school your friends talk about their Sunday at church and you listen in surprise to how they pray together. You are surprised to learn that children attend their prayers and hear their stories of fond memories through the years. What a nice God they had, you think to yourself, ashamed to say it out aloud.
The rest, I leave to your imagination.
Your mind and tongue can wag a million reasons on why children should be banned in Masjids but all I ask you to remember is that no problem exists but with a solution already devised for it by Allah swt.
Noise? Have a separate room for moms and kids instead of pointing them towards mats thrown outside in haste.
You want to maintain the carpets because that trumps inculcating love of prayer in children in priorities? FINE. Hang a sign that forbids any food and drinks in the prayer hall and have the person who is stationed to shoo away the children to monitor the prayer hall and remind people violating that rule. Have a spot to change diapers in the washrooms and strictly forbid it in the prayer hall; the children shooer can monitor that too.
For almost all of the “reasons” children are heartlessly banned from prayer halls, there are solutions. The simplest one is to remember that children are people and feel all the emotions too.
There are a handful of Masjids that still welcome children and we have been blessed to have them around. This rule that blatantly ignores the example of our beloved Prophet (PBUH)’S love for children is generally found in the new and beautiful structures.
What most people fail to realise is that banning children is essentially, banning the mothers too.
Why would a mother, who can pray in peace in the comfort of her own home knowing her children are by her side, want to hand over her children to a complete stranger along with many other children to pray with a heavy heart and fear(for the children’s safety) in a Masjid?
Naturally, the mother stops going to the Masjid too. Disheartened by the rejection from a place she thought would help her raise her children, she would look elsewhere for the support and open her family to being misguided.
I write this with a heavy heart after I had to once again console my little ones who did not understand why yet again they had to only look inside the beautiful prayer hall from outside when we stopped for prayers after a fun day out. Telling them it is because they were little made me feel as if I was telling them that being little was wrong.
Instead, I looked at my little girl’s face and said, “Love, you need to make duaa everyday for Allah to help you build a Masjid that welcomes children too”.
Nodding her little head, she ran off to focus on something else, like children usually do but brought it up again without fail at bedtime, proving she felt deeper than she let on.
How are we going to shake out of the state where it has become normal to prioritise the maintenance of a creation over developing the faith of the Ummah?
May Allah swt guide us through these scary times!
Disclaimer: I do not intend to pinpoint at any particular place nor do I assume to be more informed than those of higher authority. I am simply a heartbroken mother, wondering how to explain to her children on why they are not allowed into a prayer space to pray to the One who loves them more than I ever could.